Monday, April 15, 2013

When core beliefs conflict mandates

I believe everyone has a core belief system—inner rules they follow that guide their actions. This core belief system can be formed on personal experiences, ideas and philosophies taught to us by others, and even what I believe is basic human nature. While people can point out exceptions, I dare say most people feel it is wrong to walk up to a complete stranger and kill them for no reason aside that they could.

I’ll admit that many of my core beliefs come from my religious affiliation. One that I feel most strongly about is that everyone has a right to choose their actions, but they are also ultimately responsible for these same actions.

It’s taken time and distance to realize something I really struggled with while working in banking. One of the companies I worked for micromanaged its employees to death. Examples? As managers and supervisors, we would do observations on our tellers to make sure they did everything they were supposed to do including using the customer’s name at least three times, greeting them with a warm smile (not a fake one—who determines that?), making sure that none of the tellers were sitting while a customer was being helped, even if they weren’t the one helping the customer (there was even talk of removing all the chairs), making sure every customer was offered a financial review or a new product, and ensuring the hoop earrings worn by females were no more than 1” in diameter—I even had a regional manager who carried a ruler with her to measure when she did surprise inspections. All of this is true.

And then came the other side. The company would set “goals” for us each month—which of course was a wrong use of the word. It wasn’t a goal as much as an expectation. These goals consisted of number of checking accounts opened, loan amounts, and even customer satisfaction reports. Where did these “goals” come from? From suits in a boardroom who based it on the previous year’s performance, plus a certain percentage increase.

One co-worker of mine got transferred to a branch that had been short staffed for a long time and had terrible numbers. He got it running and blew his goals out of the water—compared to percentage increase over the goal. The problem? When you have a goal of 2, and you get 6, that’s a huge percentage increase. For my branch, if I had a goal of 100, and I got 110, or 4 more than my friend, my percentage increase was much smaller—and therefore he became a superstar, for a little while.

Because he’d done so well, they gave him a bigger, more prestigious branch. After his first full month there, he didn’t make his goals. The result? He was put on warning.

Anyone that works for big business can share similar stories, much to my dismay. But how does this relate to core beliefs? Consider this: if you believe that you have a right to choose, and are responsible for the things you can control, yet you work in an environment where you are not allowed to choose because of the level of micromanaging, and often you are responsible for things completely out of your control, something’s got to give.

1 comment:

  1. The bank across the street from me has 'goals' for number of accounts corporate expects people to open in their branch every month too, but the town is so small there really aren't that many more people to badger into opening a new account (only 2300 in my town, and 1500 or so in the surrounding communities.) and two other banking/credit unions in the area. There has to be a point where suits in an office in New York or whatever realize they're being unrealistic.